Friday, March 6, 2009

The Devil In The Backyard


The Zardari Government is making peace with the Taliban which is hanging amputated bodies from electric poles.
AMIR MATEEN analyses the dangers for Pakistan
Cover Story

Warzone A Pakistani gunship flies low over Swat valley, which has been taken over by the Taliban
Photo: AFP

THE ONE-TIME tourist heaven of Swat looks like a ghost valley today. The people have still not recovered from the gory nightmare that was unleashed by the local Taliban. The last one-and-a-half year has seen a population of 1.5 million people being held hostage by a ragtag force of some 2,500 Taliban. They are under the leadership of Maulvi Fazalullah, popularly known as Mullah Radio for his jihad-inflected sermons, aired through his illegal FM radio. Fazalullah's men have fought bloody battles with the army over the past two years. They virtually took control of most of Swat last year. Over 1,200 civilians have died so far and around 350,000 hapless locals forced to leave through rough mountain terrain.

The rich have left for Peshawar — 70 miles away, and the richer for more posh Islamabad — 100 miles in the south. The poor, with no place to go, suffered the trauma that makes Hollywood horrors look like a picnic. Intelligence sources dubbed as 'spies' and government officials — particularly from law-enforcing agencies — were specifically targeted by the Taliban. They were abducted and maimed and their killing turned into a gruesome spectacle in order to send a message to others.

The reign of terror is symbolised by what has come to be known as Khooni Chowk — the Crossing of Blood. A band of Taliban would, late at night, block the central crossing in the city centre of Mingora, the district headquarters the size of Srinagar and no less beautiful. They hung amputated bodies — some headless — on an electrical pole in the middle of the crossing, with notes giving their name and details of their 'misdeeds' against Islam. The bodies were not to be removed before a given date. Anybody violating this dictat could do so only at the risk of being himself put up headless.

THIS SCENE — perpetuated for days and weeks — is not from the Wild West of the cowboys. It happened in the Swat valley, which once took pride in having the most peaceful and bettereducated residents not just in the frontier province alone, but all over Pakistan. The princely state — annexed by Pakistan in 1969 — had better schools, hospitals and police stations than anybody else. It had an airport, and attractions like ski resorts and trout fishing on the meandering River Swat, which used to attract hordes of tourists every year. No more.

A majority of the police force has either run away, resigned or simply not turned up for work. Local newspapers are filled with advertisements from policemen declaring that they have left their jobs, and hence they be spared "in the name of their small children." A new force of 600 locals was recruited for special commando training to combat what is actually an insurgency. The story goes that 450 of them disappeared during the training itself, and another 148 did not appear on the date of joining. The two men left in the force have not ventured outside their office in uniform since.

This left the entire populace at the mercy of the wolves that are masquerading as saviours of religion. People have seen throats being slit. Those who violate the Taliban code are either lashed or hanged in public jirgas (gatherings). Events where masked gunmen with the latest weaponry went on the rampage were skillfully orchestrated, and then their videos released in order to instill fear in the public. This took a severe toll on the psyche of the public, already hard pressed thanks to unemployment and hunger.

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New regime People flee the Taliban

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New regime girls are being barred from studying in schools
Photo: AP

Cover Story

New regime while all opposition is decimated
Photo: AP

Life has come to a standstill for 80 percent of the people whose earnings came from tourism. Orchids have become rotten in the absence of labour and markets; and the fields lie barren. People go without fire, food, and electricity for days. The only cinema in Mingora was forced to down shutters, television and music has been banned, and CD shops have been closed. Even barbershops were shutdown as shaving, according to the interpretation of the Taliban, is un-Islamic.

It has been particularly hard for women, children and the handicapped because of the problems of age or sickness. Over 200 schools have been blown up as they were giving "western education." Girls are barred from schooling. Over 100,000 Swati girls stand to lose their chance of education and, consequently, any career or professional life. This is happening in a place where the ratio of women in literacy and the job market was one of the highest in the province. The new edict may allow girls an education till the fourth grade, but with a revised curriculum. Also, they must always wear scarves on their heads. In any case, it will take awhile as most schools have been destroyed.

Women have been rendered prisoner in their own homes as they are now barred from going out in public, something that even Saudi Arabia has not tried. The central bazaar for women — with items like cosmetics and bangles, when partially open — today gives an image of a haunted place without shoppers. But then, cosmetics are a lesser priority when your children sleep hungry. Women are not allowed to work. Even women doctors are not permitted to carry on with their jobs. Stories abound where women lost babies because of the non-availability of doctors. Many others have died because of the lack of medicines and medical treatment.

The question is — how did over a million people accept the inhuman dictates of a bunch of jihadi thugs who do not fit into any Islamic school of thought? Well, they have not. They voted liberal parties to power in the last election. But these parties did not have either the political muscle, or the will, to protect them from the evil of the Taliban.

But how did the Taliban gain ascendancy? The system of justice under the princely state was more efficient than what followed. The people, therefore, wanted Sharia courts to be established as a way of achieving quick justice and dispensing with the long delays and corruption of the civil courts. But the Taliban, who had a different agenda, hijacked their demand. For ordinary people, in the absence of the writ of the state, it's just a matter of choosing a lesser evil.

All hopes now hinge upon Maulana Sufi Mohammad, the father-in-law of Fazalullah. Sufi Mohammad is no angel himself. He is a radical cleric freed in 2008 after spending six years in jail for leading 10,000 Pashtun tribesmen to fight the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Nearly 7,000 died in the bombing and he ran back for his life. The people whose children he took with him after indoctrinating them, leading to their being killed, hate him. He has now been resurrected in order to persuade Fazalullah to accept the government's offer of a ceasefire, which he has agreed to partially. How long this respite will last, only time will tell.

The ceasefire agreement with the Taliban has raised questions as to whether it is a victory for the Pakistan Government, capitulation before the Taliban who want to recreate a 1,500-year-old replica of Islamic rule, or a strategic retreat by the military.

IT IS ironic that Frontier Chief Minister Ameer Khan Hoti, the great grandson of the champion of nonviolence, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan — the Frontier Gandhi — has signed the agreement. He has justified it saying, "I have done this to stop violence and to fulfill my electoral promise of restoring peace." His uncle and Awami National Party Chief Asfand Yar Wali — whose party runs the troubled province bordering Afghanistan — is under attack from the Taliban. He survived a suicide bomb attack three months ago while most of his party members are on the run because of constant threats to their life.

Cover Story

Who won? The Taliban celebrates
Photo: AP

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Government at the Centre is playing it safe. President Asif Zardari's position is that he will decide when the agreement will come to him for his signature. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood has tried to pacify the Americans while on a tour of Washington, saying, "it's a local remedy to a local problem." The PPP has neither accepted the agreement nor rejected it. Obviously, the PPP Government would like to see what the outcome will be in a couple of months, if not earlier, before taking a stand. In the meantime, PPP spinmasters are arguing that the Sharia courts are not the same as strict Islamic law. The new laws, for instance, would not ban education of women or impose other strict tenets espoused by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

LIBERAL CIRCLES in Pakistan and abroad are fuming over what they call "the sellout." Some, like human rights activist Iqbal Haider, have described it as a deal with the devil. "How can you sit with the very people who have maimed hundreds of people," he protested. "It's a matter of principle which should be supreme. These people should be tried for crimes against humanity."

The liberals have a valid argument that the agreement will now be a model for the rest of the Taliban. They will demand similar Sharia in other parts of the province. "Now they know that militancy is the way to coerce the government into submission," said senior analyst Saleem Khilji. They have a point, as the agreement extends the scope of their power. The government has conceded that the new Sharia will be extended beyond Swat to the other five districts of Malakand division also.

The Pakistan Army has taken refuge behind the government, saying that it is following orders to stay out till further notice. They should be the happiest lot if this agreement were to result in peace. They have taken the brunt of the fight. Media reports say army casualties number more than a hundred dead but the Taliban claims that it might be much higher.

The issue is that the Pakistan Army has been trained to fight with India, and it may not be comfortable with counterinsurgency operations. It does not have sufficient experience of that except for the Balochistan insurgency in the 1970s, unlike its Indian rival, which has consistently countered insurgencies in Kashmir, Nagaland and Mizoram.

The army will remain stationed in Swat to deal with the fallout. The underlying assumption is that either Sufi Mohammad will deliver peace or fight with his son-inlaw. This will be a tactical victory. Instead of the army fighting the Taliban, it would be the militants fighting each other.

But then there is a counter-theory — the two factions might use the time to regroup, consolidate their power and fight later with even more ferocity. There are already signs of this happening. An indicator is that the price of arms in the tribal belt has almost doubled because of the massive demand.

In any case, the agreement is simply not implementable. Each party has a different interpretation of it. The governments in the Frontier and Islamabad think that the Sharia court is old wine in a new bottle. Sufi Mohammad believes that his mandate is to provide Sharia courts where religious scholars will be independent judges and not advisers to the regular civil judges like in the earlier agreement of six years ago. "The choice of judges will be ours and they will be all-powerful," said Maulana Izzat, spokes man of Sufi Mohammad, in a telephonic interview.

Fazalullah wants the complete domination of the Sharia, encompassing all sectors beyond the judiciary. "We shall run the entire area in accordance with the holy book, "countered Muslim Khan, another spokesman for Fazalullah. "We don't accept any system but our own and will inshallah spread it to other parts of Pakistan very soon."

The legal and administrative intricacies involved in merging the old system with the new are something beyond these clerics. The Taliban have simply ceased fire but not surrendered. Both sides are waiting for the next round to start with bated breath. It almost came to that when a newly-appointed senior district official was kidnapped by militants two days after the ceasefire. After a tense standoff lasting hours, the official, Kushal Khan, was freed.

Cover Story

Who won? while Pakistan President Zardari confers with the Prime Minister and the army chief
Photo: AP

Later, it was disclosed that his release had been the result of a swap: Pakistani authorities released two militants who had been picked up a day earlier in Peshawar. Next time around, it is possible that some freed militants like this might renew the fighting while both sides continue to sit in the trenches.

Swat is different from other trouble spots like Bahaur, Waziristan and Khyber. It is the only trouble spot that is not a federal (FATA) but a provincial tribal area (PATA). It is wrong to generalise about the Taliban and the Swat situation in particular.

FAZALULLAH, A barely-literate former lift operator, was an indigenous product. He does not come from the ranks of Taliban or Al-Qaeda, but was later accepted by them and adopted as the commander of the area looking after his hold in the area. It is only in Swat that schools have been closed in an organised manner, otherwise the Taliban have not done so in FATA, except for occasional episodes. The Taliban have generally refrained from killing hostages, except for spies or the recent Polish engineer in Waziristan. The Swat Talibans have slit throats of hostages and security forces with ruthless abandon.

Swat is the only place which has been completely taken over by the Taliban. This may be because of its geography — it is a bowl-shaped valley. The Swat terrain makes it strategically easier for Taliban to hold power against numerical odds. There is one major communication artery along the Swat River that could easily be blocked from anywhere. In Bajaur, Khyber and Waziristan, the Taliban are dominant, but they do not run those agencies. Swat is also the only hotspot that does not border Afghanistan. In fact, it remained aloof and generally peaceful during the war with Afghanistan.

Swat has a past of peace and culture where thousands thronged from all over Pakistan and abroad every summer. Its capital, Mingora, happens to be much bigger than any other town in any of the troubled agencies.

Also, it houses the elite of Pashtun tribes, and is the abode of the royal, sophisticated Yousafzais of Tana, whereas the other agencies have a history of warring tribes. The impact of Swat's takeover, like in the classical Clausewitzian centre of gravity, has been immense on the psyche of Pashtuns.

If the impression goes out that it's a victory for the Taliban, it will encourage militancy elsewhere, in the rest of Pakistan. It becomes more alarming when seen in the larger context where the Waziristan commanders, pro-Pakistan Mullah Nazir and anti-state Baitullah Mehsud, along with Haji Gul Bahadur, have patched up differences in Waziristan to become a formidable force; Bajaur Taliban now expect similar Sharia in their area, and Hamimullah is blocking NATO supplies in Khyber. The Taliban seem to be on the ascendant, which should be a source of worry for not just Pakistan, but also the entire region and the world.

If the social fabric continues to be torn apart as it has in Swat, this will lead to the rise of more non-state actors who are not under the control of anyone. Since all of these commanders are connected to each other, including the militants in Kashmir, the genie is threatening to become ever more dangerous. The question is not just about the outcome of the investigation into the Mumbai attack. A more serious question is: what will happen if there is another attack of a similar nature?

Mateen is an Islamabad-based journalist


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 9, Dated Mar 07, 2009

Darfur rebel leader slams double standards of Arab, Islamic countries


Monday 5 January 2009 04:08.

January 4, 2009 (PARIS) — Abdel Wahid Al-Nur, the leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement, condemned the killing of civilians in both Gaza and Israel, and appealed to the warring parties to take into account the security of civilians, and the observance of international humanitarian laws.

JPEG - 8.7 kb
Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur

However, Al-Nur denounced the double standards of the League of Arab States and Organization of the Islamic Conference in this regard. He said if the Arab and Islamic countries mobilized 10% of what they are doing now for Gaza they could have prevented the "genocide" committed by Khartoum in Darfur against innocent and unarmed citizens.

He also underscored that Darfur people had and still have been subjected to the killing and oppression. "Khartoum deserves to be condemned for the genocide and war crimes committed" in the troubled western Sudan region, he said.

He also said that the number of people killed in Darfur — death toll rose past 300.000 according to the UN — exceeds the number of populations of certain states member of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Darfur rebels have been angered and disappointed by the blind support of Arab states to the Sudanese government about the conflict of Darfur.

The Arab League with the support of the African and its participation tasked the Qatar with the organization of new peace talks between the government and the rebel groups.

However, the Qatari initiative received a cool reception from the rebel movements. None of the rebel groups announced clearly its intention to take part in these talks.

The rebels perceive the belated Arab involvement as bid to save the Sudanese president from an arrest warrant that the ICC is expected to issue for Omer Al-Bashir.



Gleaned from:


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Report: Hezbollah gets $1 Billion in funding

Hizbollah is pursuing its inexorable quest for control of Lebanon, and is being funded by Iran and Qatar.
Business research facility asserts that majority of donations from Tehran in bid to shore-up terror organization ahead of elections in Lebanon. But funds also pouring in from other sources – in spite of economic crisis
Roee Nahmias
Published:  03.04.09, 00:37 / Israel News
Hizbullah's treasury has recently received no less than USD 1 billion. The bulk of the sum, some USD 600 million, was transferred to the Lebanese terror organization from Iran in a bid to strengthen the former's standing prior to the upcoming general elections in Lebanon this June.
 The claim was made Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd. The institute, which deals in economic reviews regarding the Middle East and also monitors terror funding, released a report Tuesday evening detailing the massive increase to Hizbullah's finances.
According to its sources, Hizbullah is adamant to succeed in the coming elections and expand its power in the Lebanese parliament. All the better for the group if this were to come at the expense of their rivals, the anti-Syrian camp.
The report authored by IPR, which was founded by industry captain Muzi Wertheim and economics lecturer Dr. Gil Feiler, establishes that highest single contribution was made by Iran to Hizbullah.

Part of the delivery was made via high-ranking Iranian officials, and the details regarding the transfer were kept classified until recently as the Iranian election scene heats up and the opposition revealed the massive transfer of funds to Hizbullah.

The report says that after the Second Lebanon War, Iran sent Hizbullah USD 500 million in urgent monetary aid. News of the transfer drew the ire and criticism of Iranian moderates, who accused the regime of rashly giving away the money while ignoring the economic plight of Iranian citizens.

'Terror groups thriving during financial crisis'
But Iran is not alone. According to the Info-Prod report, Hizbullah received another bulk sum from a second Gulf nation – apparently Qatar.
Unconfirmed reports in the Gulf say that in recent weeks Qatar bestowed USD 300 million on Hizbullah. Qatar, it should be noted, is actively trying to buy influence in the Arab world using its gas revenue – putting it in direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia, which openly backs the anti-Hizbullah coalition.
An additional USD 100 million have been brought in since early 2009 following a fundraising tour conducted by Hizbullah envoys in the Gulf area, aiming mostly at private tycoons.
"It seems that the global financial crisis has been good for the Islamic terror organizations in terms of fund raising," explains Doron Peskin, head of research at Info-Prod.
"With the fall of Wall Street, investors in the Gulf were quick to withdraw their funds. Since local investment opportunities are limited, a lot of liquid wealth had accumulated there.
"Groups like Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda and Hamas are well aware of the opportunity at hand – and since 2008 they have stepped-up their fundraising efforts, particularly during the Hajj, after Eid Al-Adha."
The report cites Lebanese sources as confirming that Hizbullah is still funding the rehabilitation of southern Lebanon following the 2006 wars.

Venezuela’s Tarek El - Aissami

By Nicole M. Ferrand*
Since our inception two years ago, we have been following the growing relationship between Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Although most of the information available in the media states that this relationship started in 2005, it actually began as soon as Chavez started his mandate in 1999. In fact, on November 19, 2007, the Iranian reformist newspaper, E'temad-e-Melli, published an article claiming that relations between Tehran and Caracas began with the formation of the (Iranian) Reformist government when former President Muhammed Khatami visited Venezuela during his time in office. They became so close that in 2005 Chavez presented the Iranian leader with the highest decoration, the Order of the Liberator, as a symbol of their strong ties.[1]
The Venezuelan President then encouraged Bolivia's Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega to develop ties with Iranian President Ahmadinejad which they did. All four of these countries now have strong ties to Iran and have signed treaties in diverse areas of the economy. In exchange, Iran has received many benefits including a strong presence in the Hemisphere as well as support from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador against UN sanctions. Although insiders claim that Iran had no interest in developing relationships with Caracas, per se, Khatami's regime was under international pressure to make new alliances among non-aligned countries. In the Middle East, Tehran had strong ties with Syria and Qatar, but it did not have any base from where they could actually threaten the United States and that is when Caracas became of interest.[2] After learning of Chavez's leadership in the Hemisphere, Tehran planned a strategy to establish itself in nations under the Venezuelan leader's influence.

Manuchehr Honarmand was a witness to the developing Iranian-Venezuelan relationship. Mr. Honarmand is a Dutch citizen who used to write columns for the opposition daily Kayhan International, based in London. An Iranian dissident journalist, Honarmand decided to go to the US to expand the newspaper's distribution. In December 2002 he visited South America for tourism and while in transit at the Caracas airport, waiting for a connecting flight, he was approached by two Iranians who asked him to provide information about himself. They were soon joined by two Venezuelan policemen.[3]

After learning who he was, they handcuffed him and brought him to an office behind the transit area where he was beaten and forced to sign papers in Spanish, which he did not understand. A few hours later, Honarmand was thrown into a cell where he was told that he had been charged with drug trafficking.

Furthermore, he was refused contact with the Dutch Embassy. A Venezuelan National Guard report stated that his "drug - filled suitcase" was found in a Copa Airlines flight even though Honarmand had been traveling on KLM.[4]

Mr. Honarmand's luggage, money and papers were stolen and his Dutch passport was confiscated by the Venezuelan police. While he was in jail, he was able to contact Houshang Vaziri, his editor in chief, who promised to help but soon disappeared and was later found dead in Paris. Honarmand was freed in 2005, thanks to the Dutch government's pressures. During his time in Caracas he spoke with discontented insiders of Chavez's regime who informed him about the presence of Iranian officials in every sector of the economy and that they occupied high positions in the National Guard and the police. They also told Honarmand that Iranian officials are actually proselytizing in the poorest sectors of Venezuelan society to attract followers.[5] However, what has many insiders worried is the possibility of radicals holding government positions. The recent designation of Tarek El – Aissami as Minster of Interior and Justice of Venezuela has raised concerns because of his connections with extremist groups.

Mr. El – Aissami is a Venezuelan national of Syrian descent who, before becoming Minster of Interior and Justice, occupied the position of Deputy Interior Minister for Public Security. His father, Carlos Aissami, is the head of the Venezuelan branch of the Iraqi Baath political party. Before the invasion of Iraq, he held a press conference in which he described himself as a Taliban and called Osama Bin Laden, "the great Mujahedeen, Sheik Osama bin Laden." Tarek's great-uncle Shibli el-Aissami was a prominent ideologist and assistant to the party's secretary general in Baghdad during the Saddam Hussein regime.[1]

It was discovered that in 2003 El Aissami was appointed, along with another radical student leader from the University of the Andes in the city of Mérida, Hugo Cabezas, to head the country's passport and naturalization service, the Onidex (Identification and Immigration Office). The choice came as a surprise precisely because of their ties with guerrilla movements at Universidad de Los Andes (ULA). Evidence has surfaced that during this time both men illegally issued Venezuelan passports and identity documents to members of Hezbollah and Hamas. Mr. Cabezas is now the government candidate for governor of the Andean state of Trujillo in elections due to be held on November 23, 2008 and is a founding member of Utopia, an armed group that has connections with the Bolivarian Liberation Front.[2]

While a student leader at ULA, Aissami had political control of the university residences (dorms), which were used to hide stolen vehicles and conduct drug deals and had managed to get members of the guerillas into the dorms. According to reports, of the 1,122 people living in one of the University's residences, only 387 were active students and more than 600 had nothing to do with the university.[3]

Venezuelan investigative journalist, Patricia Poleo, who escaped Venezuela and currently lives in Miami says that Mr. Aissami together with others affiliated with Hezbollah, such as Lebanon-born Gahzi Nasserddine, currently the Business Liaison at the Venezuelan embassy in Damascus, and his brother, Ghasan Atef Salameh Nasserddi, are in charge of recruiting young Venezuelan Arabs affiliated with the 'Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela' or PSUV (Chavez's Socialist Party), to be sent to South Lebanon for combat training in Hezbollah camps preparing them for 'asymmetrical war' against the United States. Once back in Venezuela, they are greeted by radical members of the Venezuelan Socialist Party affiliated with UNEFA (the university run by the Armed Forces) and the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela (Venezuelan Bolivarian University) and continue with their training in firearms, explosives and munitions. The training camps are located in the states of Monagas, Miranda, el Páramo, Falcon, Yaracuy, Yumare, and Trujillo and the districts of Maturin, Los Teques, El Jari, Churuguara and Sierra de San Luis. These groups and individuals are supervised by the Hezbollah Organization in Venezuela, along with al-Qaeda Iraqis currently living in the country and by the Palestinian Democratic Front, headed by Salid Ahmed Rahman, whose office is located in Caracas's Central Park.[4]

Since Chavez assumed the Presidency, Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda have used Venezuela as their bridge to other Latin American countries. There is information that a group of Iraqi activists belonging to al-Qaeda are currently in Caracas. Their names are: Mohammed Adnan Yasin, Falah Amin Taha and Muhi Alwan Mohammed Al Qaisi. They all arrived in Caracas with temporary visas granted and approved by the heads of Onidex (Cabezas and Aissami) and are believed to be very dangerous. They oversee the activities of these terrorist organizations in the tri – border region, and in Nicaragua and Argentina.[5]

Other Hezbollah members in Venezuela with these same visas are: explosives expert Lebanese Abdul Ghani Suleiman Wanked, Hassan Nasrallah's right-hand man.; Rada Ramel Assad, born in Barranquilla, Colombia and Abouchanab Daichoum Dani who is the organizer of the group.[6]
We have to be very careful about what is going on in Venezuela. Independent media outlets have warned that the Chávez regime was issuing ID documents to Islamic radicals, enabling them to operate and move freely to other countries. It is extremely worrisome and dangerous to appoint a radical such as Aissami as the official in charge of issuing identity cards and passports but this serves the goals of the Iranian and Venezuelan presidents in their joint efforts to radicalize the region and build terrorist networks.

Other articles written by the staff of The America's Report that can be referenced to in relation with this story are: "The Iranian threat already in the US' backyard", February 14, 2008 by Nicole M. Ferrand; "Latin America's radical grassroots", by Luis Fleischman and Nicole M. Ferrand from March 27, 2007; "The Radical Grassroots in Latin America II", by Luis Fleischman and Nicole M. Ferrand from April 11, 2007; "The Latin American Radical Grassroots III", by Luis Fleischman and Nicole M. Ferrand).

*Nicole M. Ferrand is the editor of "The Americas Report" of the Menges Hemispheric Security Project. She is a graduate of Columbia University in Economics and Political Science with a background in Law from Peruvian University, UNIFE and in Corporate Finance from Georgetown University.

[1] Al Arabiya – Ibid.
[2] Jihad in Venezuela. November 29, 2003. Jihad Watch.
[3] Memri – Ibid.
[4] Hezbollah and Al Qaeda in Venezuela. June 12, 2008 The Jungle Hut.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid,
[1] Ibid.
[2] Ibid.
[3] The Iran-Venezuela Connection. February 14, 2008. Memri.
[4] Ibid.

[1] Unholy alliance between Caracas and Tehran. January 13, 2008. Al Arabiya News.

Iran leader: Obama taking wrong path over 'cancerous' Israel

Some Gems from Iran:
Iran's top authority said on Wednesday U.S. President Barack Obama was pursuing the same "wrong path" as George W. Bush in supporting Israel and
described the Jewish state as a "cancerous tumor."
The comments by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on policy in the Islamic Republic, are likely to disappoint the new U.S. administration which wants to engage Iran but has called on Tehran to "unclench its fist."
"Even the new president of America, who has come to power with slogans about changing Bush's policies, is defending state terrorism by talking about unconditional commitment to Israel's security," Khamenei said.
Khamenei, speaking at a conference on the Palestinian issue in Tehran, said Obama was following the same "wrong path" of his predecessor in the White House.
"Another big mistake is to say that the only way to save the Palestinian nation is by negotiations," Khamenei said.
"Negotiations with whom? With an occupying and bullying regime, who does not believe in any other principle other than force? ... Or negotiations with America and Britain who committed the biggest sin in creating and supporting this cancerous tumor ... ?" he added.
"The way to salvation [for Palestinians] is standing firm and resisting," the supreme leader said.
Khamenei also said the Holocaust, in which six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis, was used to "usurp" Palestinian land and said the West and Israel showed the weakness of their cause by not allowing anyone to question the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad, who previously caused Western ire by saying the Holocaust was a "myth", said: "The story of the Holocaust, a nation without a homeland and a homeland without a nation ... are the big lies of our era."
"The continuation of the Zionist regime even on one inch of the land of Palestine, because of the nature of that regime, means the continuation of crime, occupation, threat and insult to the nations," the president told the conference.

Lebanese celebrate engagement of mass-murder Samir Kuntar

Samir Kuntar murdered three innocent people and a policeman in a 1979 raid. In a shameful and inexplicable deal, he was freed last year, along with others in exchange for the dead bodies of abducted Israeli soldiers Edlad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Now he is marrying a Lebanese society princess and the cream of Lebanese society is celebrating. Mabrouk. ya Samir.

Radical Muslim attacks on Bangladesh publisher Salahuddin Shoaib CHoudhoury

[Shalahuddin Shoaib Choudhoury is under attack in Bangladesh for challenging radical Islam. He has been brutalized by authorities and hoodlums]
[by email]
After 6 days of attack on the office of Weekly Blitz newspaper by armed hooligans belong to ruling party in Bangladesh, members of law enforcing agencies are reluctant in taking any action, as some high ups in the government and police administration instructed the investigation officer not to 'harass' any of the accused in this case as they belong to the ruling party.
On February 22, 35-40 armed terrorists belonging to the ruling party, led by Ruhul Amin attacked the office of Blitz newspaper. They instructed the caretaker named Anwar of the commercial center named Skylark Point [where the Blitz office is located] to lock the outside gate and continued their notorious actions in the broad day light for hours in presence of  members of law enforcing and various intelligence agencies. The CCTV of the building was also put switched off by the management of the building as the attackers were influential and notorious goons belonging to Bangladesh Awami League.
Despite lodging of a case more than 5 days back [Case No. 65, under section 143, 448, 323, 342, 384, 380, 427 and 506], members of law enforcing agencies in Bangladesh are showing extreme reluctance in arresting any of the attackers, mostly belonging to the ruling party, who attacked the office of Weekly Blitz on Sunday [February 22, 2009], physically assaulted the editor and other members, abused the female staff and looted laptop and other valuables in broad day light, in presence of One Shamim from DGFI [Directorate General of Forces Intelligence]. Members of law enforcing agencies were witnessing the incident silently as the attackers were mostly activists and members of the ruling party in Bangladesh.
Others who were in the gang are identified as Ruhul Amin, Shintu, Liton, Yunus, Anwar, Siraj, Lavlu, Kajol etc. According to police sources, most of them were thugs belonging to the ruling party.
At 10am Sunday, local time, internationally-acclaimed journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, was attacked as he was working in the office of his newspaper, Weekly Blitz, by a gang of thugs belonging to Bangladesh's ruling Awami League. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is now under medical treatment for eye, neck, and other injuries those he suffered in the attack. The renewed violence marks the first against him since he was abducted by Bangladesh's dreaded Rapid Action Battalion in March 2008. It may be mentioned here that, the military backed interim regime withdrew police protection from the residence of the Blitz editor in May last year.
A large group of armed hooligans, led by one Shamim introducing himself to be an official of DGFI stormed Blitz premises and attacked newspaper staff until they found the editor. They locked the editor in a room and continued various forms of physical assaults thus abusing him to be a 'Mossad Agent', 'Israeli Agent' etc. Culprits are continuing to occupy the Blitz office.
Meanwhile, one of the leaders of the attacker's gang named Ruhul Amin is continuing to give threats to the Weekly Blitz editors and other members of the newspaper on immediately withdrawing the case. In a phone call, Ruhul Amin said, 'I give you people only 24 hours time. Withdraw the case; otherwise our next target is Choudhury's residence.'
Earlier a person named Advocate Shintu, claiming to be the advisor of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, phoned the Blitz editor and demanded TK. 500,000 [US$ 8,400 approximately] as extortion. Shintu also told the Blitz editor that, he is one of the decision makers helping Sheikh Hasina in appointing her cabinet colleagues.
Weekly Blitz tried to find the reason behind reluctance of police in taking any action against the culprits as to why the attackers are yet to be arrested. On condition of anonymity, a source in police said, 'We have already become captive in the grips of the political government and its cadres. We can watch crime, but cannot take actions. Because, if we take any action against those party activists, then we shall face various forms of departmental harassments and humiliations.'
An official of Weekly Blitz contacted some of the senior officials in Bangladesh Police, including the inspector general as well as Commission of Police [Dhaka] and informed them about lodging of the case on February 22, 2009.. Copy of the FIR [First Information Report] was also sent to those officials with the appeal of initiating immediate investigation into the matter and arresting the culprits.
But, none of these senior officials are taking any action in this regard. It is learnt that, several influential leaders belong to the ruling party are continuing to call the police officers asking the reason of recording the case. They are also warning the police officers of severe consequence if any of the accused in the case are arrested or interrogated.
When contacted, an officer on duty at Paltan Police Station told Weekly Blitz that, they have specific instructions of neither investigating the case nor arresting anyone as the accused are from the ruling party.
Since installation of government led by Bangladesh Awami League, reign of terror is established throughout the country by musclemen and hooligans belonging to student's wing, youth wing, volunteer's wing and other pro-ruling party elements in Bangladesh.
Weekly Blitz editor and other staffs of the newspaper have made an appeal to the media community in the country and in the world for their kind and immediate help in this regard.
Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist
Skype: shoaibnoca
Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz
PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005; AJC Moral Courage Award 2006
Key to the Englewood City, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007

Monday, March 2, 2009

Afghanistan: Can't Win?

Is the problem what really happened, or what people think happened.
Tactical Success, Strategic Defeat
Afghan Outrage at U.S. Raid Highlights Challenges Facing New Military Push
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, March 2, 2009; A01
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ALTIMUR, Afghanistan -- The U.S. soldiers entered the sleeping village in Logar province in the dead of night on Feb. 20, sure of their target and heavily armed. They surrounded a mud-walled compound, shouting commands, and then kicked down the gate as cries of protest erupted within.
Exactly what happened next is disputed, but shots were fired and a man inside fell dead. Four other men were grabbed and arrested. Then the soldiers departed, leaving the women to calm the frightened children and the rumors to spread in the dark.
By midmorning, hundreds of angry people were blocking the nearby highway, burning tires and shouting "Death to America!" By mid-evening, millions of Afghan TV news viewers were convinced that foreign troops had killed an unarmed man trying to answer his door.
"We are afraid of the Taliban, but we are more afraid of the Americans now," said Abdul Ghaffar, a truck driver in the raided village. "The foreign forces are killing innocent people. We don't want them in Afghanistan. If they stay, one day we will stand against them, just like we stood against the Russians."
Tactically, the U.S.-led night raid in the village of Bagh-i-Soltan was a success. U.S. military officials said the dead man and an accomplice now in custody were bombmakers linked to recent insurgent attacks. They said that they had tracked the men for days and that one was holding an assault rifle when they shot him.
Strategically, however, the incident was a disaster. Its most incriminating version -- colored by villagers' grief and anger, possibly twisted by Taliban propaganda and magnified by the growing influence of independent Afghan TV -- spread far faster than U.S. authorities could even attempt to counter.
Worse, it happened in an area where the Obama administration has just launched an expensive military push, focusing on regions near Kabul, the capital, where Islamist insurgents are trying to gain influence. Several U.S. bases have been set up in Logar and adjacent Wardak province, and 3,000 troops have arrived since January. Their mandate is to strengthen security, facilitate aid projects and good government, and swing local opinion against the insurgents.
A Wide Gulf
Logar sits in a historically peaceful valley an hour's drive south of Kabul, surrounded by craggy mountains. Brown and bleak in winter, it is green and bucolic in summer, with wheat fields, orchards and honey that beekeepers sell beside the road. It is also a gateway from southeastern Afghanistan to the capital, straddling one of the few paved highways in the region.
In the past 18 months, Taliban forces have established strongholds in several nearby provinces and a low-key but intimidating presence in Logar. Officials say most Logaris, though frustrated by poor government services, have not yet decided where their loyalties lie. Politically, Logar is still up for grabs.
"This is a fertile area for us to plant the seeds of opportunity, but there are a lot of fence-sitters, and everyone is vying for the populace," said Lt. Col. Daniel Goldthorpe, who commands the U.S. Army base at Altimur in Logar, about 30 miles south of Bagh-i-Soltan.
The newly built base is a cluster of heated tents and wood cabins on a rocky plain, surrounded by dirt-filled barricades and a distant cordon of snowcapped mountains. It houses about 600 troops from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, whose duties include search raids, security patrols and goodwill missions in nearby villages.
Goldthorpe acknowledged that the fallout from the raid in Bagh-i-Soltan was a surprising setback for the U.S. forces' image here. But he attributed the public unrest to superior Taliban propaganda efforts and strongly denied that any misconduct occurred during the raid.
"We did everything to the letter, but their media was a lot faster than ours," he said. "When a tree falls in the forest, the first to report the sound gets their version out. This was a huge learning curve for us and an important exercise in credibility."
But interviews with local residents, Afghan officials and U.S. military officers since the raid suggest that the problem was more complex than one side putting out a quicker news flash. The incident occurred amid deepening national hostility to American and NATO forces and growing complaints about coalition bombings and night raids.
Logar officials, like area residents, seemed inclined to believe the worst. U.S. officials said some were afraid to publicly side with the Americans, and other local officials said they had not been told of the raid by their superiors in Kabul, whom U.S. officials said they had briefed.
U.S. officials were also constrained from fully explaining their actions or making amends afterward. Intelligence sources could not be revealed. Daytime visits to villages required advance security planning and transport in monster vehicles armored against roadside bombs and rockets, hampering the troops' ability to make personal contact quickly.
A week after the raid, even though U.S. officials had by then met with village elders and released all but one detainee, emotions in Bagh-i-Soltan were still running high, and the raided compound was full of condolence callers. The gulf between the resentful residents and the eager-to-help soldiers seemed as wide as the brown winter plain.
Divergent Accounts
The first version of the raid, and the one that has stuck in the public mind, came from Mullah Abdul Mateen, the owner of the raided house. He told reporters the next day that heavily armed Americans had burst into the sleeping household, shot at his younger brother, herded the women and children into a room, then handcuffed and taken away several more brothers and a cousin.
"We are not terrorists or al-Qaeda. I am not hiding from anyone. There was no reason for the Americans to do this," Mateen, 35, said in an interview last week. "The Americans got the wrong information from an Afghan spy. If they continue killing and arresting innocent people, the anger against them will increase."
The provincial governor, Atiqullah Ludin, also bitterly criticized the U.S. forces, saying they had promised to avoid civilian casualties and to conduct all house raids accompanied by Afghan troops. "Now what can I tell the people of Logar?" Ludin said in apparent anguish last week. "We have to build their trust or the enemies of Afghanistan will take advantage of it."
A very different description of the raid came from U.S. officers who carried it out. They said they were accompanied by Afghan military and intelligence officers. One was Army Maj. Todd Polk, a squad leader based at Altimur.
Polk said there was solid evidence that the dead man, identified as Sher Agha, and a second man detained in the raid possessed explosives-making materials and had helped organize a recent bomb attack on a French military facility in Logar. He said both men had been tracked to Mateen's house and a neighboring compound.
"I was there, and I can tell you for a fact what happened," Polk said in an interview last week. He said Agha "had an AK-47 in his hand and was trying to get away" when he was shot by U.S. forces. "If he were innocent, he would have sat there."
Like other U.S. officers here, Polk said that the protests afterward were probably instigated by the Taliban and that residents would not have objected had they known the facts that led to the raid. He also expressed frustration over the lack of communication between Afghan security officials in Kabul and Logar.
At a routine meeting with two local police officials last week, Polk was attempting to discuss highway safety issues when the officers changed the subject. Polite but uneasy, they asked why the Americans had broken down Mateen's door, why they had shot someone and why no one had informed their commander in advance about the raid.
"If you had come and asked us, we could have brought him to you, and there would be no trouble," Capt. Mohammed Wahidullah told Polk, speaking through an interpreter. "Instead we had to go out on the highway the next day, with thousands of people shouting and cursing us. You didn't need to take all those vehicles and people to raid that house. You just needed to make one call."
Polk told the police he would take the suggestion to his superiors, but it was evident that he remained skeptical of the policemen's sincerity -- and convinced that the Taliban insurgents, with their ability to intimidate people and whip up Afghans' emotions against foreign armies, were the real cause of the backlash.
"I know we did the right thing, but the Taliban kicked our butts on the response," the major said, shaking his head. "Next time, we just have to be faster putting out the truth."
Special correspondent Javed Hamdard in Logar province contributed to this report.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

iran - carrying a grudge to extremes

One of the issues President Obama will need to overcome and apologize for in opening a dialogue with Iran is the bad press Iran and Persia have gotten in the West. This is evidently a very long term affair, related to Western cultural imperialism in the Middle East and the machinations of highly placed secret Zionists in the historiography industry. .
It seems that the Iranians are still sore about bad press over their invasion of Greece about 2,500 years ago. In the Middle East, a grudge is forever.
Iranians are still sore about Thermopylae - they got bad press from the West. Witness this report from AP and as-Sharq Al-Awsat:
TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – An adviser to Iran's president on Sunday demanded an apology from a team of visiting Hollywood actors and movie industry officials, including Annette Bening, saying films such as "300" and "The Wrestler" were "insulting" to Iranians.

Without an apology, members of Iran's film industry should refuse to meet with representatives from the nine-member team, said Javad Shamaqdari, the art and cinema adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"In my viewpoint, it is a failure to have an official meeting with one who is insulting," Shamaqdari told The Associated Press.

The film "300," portrays the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days. It angered many Iranians for the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.

The Iranian government has long been convinced that Hollywood, and in particular the Disney studios, are controlled by the international Jew-Zionist conspiracy, and that Mickey and other mice are creations of the devilish Zionists. Add Thucydides and Herodotus to the list of Zionist conspirators. How unfortunate that the benighted Greeks did not appreciate the attempt of the enlightened Persians to bring their advanced civilization to Greece and eliminate the Zionist apartheid regimes there!

Arab countries try to continue petroleum extortion

Arab and Muslim petrolocracies planned the future on gouging the west with sky-high oil prices. After $150 a barrel oil ruined the world economy, oil prices plumetted. These countries are stuck with budgets that plan for luxuries like artificial islands and atomic weapons programs to wipe out Zionism and America.
In reaction, they are cutting production in order to try to retrieve their loss. Of course, this will only sabotage world economies further and accelerate the search for petroleum alternatives. The long term price of oil, in adjusted dollars is $20 a barrel, and that is fairly close to its fair value, including the highest extraction costs, transportation and reasonable profit. Cutting supplies in a dead market ignores market economics and won't raise the world demand. These countries will discover that the demand for anything is elastic. It's true people need oxygen. But if you raise the price of oxygen to $100 a liter and they can't afford it, most people will just suffocate to death and you won't have any market any more.

CAIRO (AP) - The United Arab Emirates' official news agency says the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company has announced it will cut oil shipments to customers starting in April, a move aimed at shoring up crude prices as the global downturn eats away at demand.
WAM reported Thursday that ADNOC will enact 15 to 17 percent cuts in supplies of its various crude grades, including Murban.
The move comes as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries struggles to reverse a slump in crude prices despite its pledge to cut 4.2 million barrels per day from September production levels.
Several OPEC members say more reductions are needed, as crude still hovers about 70 percent below mid-July highs of almost $150 per barrel.

Egypt and Hamas: Keep Iran out of the Palestinian problem

The message is clear: Saudi Arabia and Egypt are to form an axis against Iran for controlling the Hamas and preventing Iran from exploiting the Palestinian problem for its own purposes - taking primacy in the Muslim world away from the Sunni Arab countries as a first step to regional hegemony of Iran.
By Tariq Alhomayed
Editor, as-Sharq al-Awsat 
Remarkable and important are the words one could use to describe the speech delivered by the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, aimed at Egyptian President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak following the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions that took place in Cairo.
There is no doubt that Egypt (and the Egyptian president), which has suffered from the injustice of its brotherly nations, deserves to be congratulated. However, more importantly, we must understand the significance of the Saudi monarch's remarkable speech.
In his speech to the Egyptian president, the Saudi monarch said, "Undoubtedly, the efforts exerted by your Excellency clearly indicate that Egypt of the free and proud people, Egypt of Arabism and Islam, under your wise leadership, has played its hopeful and expected historical role as a government and people." In reference to Egypt the King added, "It has proved, as it is customary, its continuing determination to find a solution for the inter-Palestinian disagreement. Tiredness and weakness have not found a way to the watchful mind of Cairo."
The first point that should be made is that it has become clear that Riyadh and Cairo are the ones that are concerned about all the plotting against the Arab world. Some people think that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not affected by it; this is nothing but part of an organised plan to harm the region and these two countries.
Moreover, the Saudi monarch's speech shows that there is no rivalry between Riyadh and Cairo with regards to inter-Palestinian reconciliation. Rather, Saudi's interest is on par with Egypt's interest to bring together the Palestinians and prevent the Palestinian Cause from becoming a playing card in the hands of foreign parties.
It is difficult to forget what Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said about Egypt and what the Iranians said about Saudi Arabia after the Israel-Gaza war as part of their organised smear-campaign against the two countries. This is the crux of the matter.
Regarding the Palestinians, the Saudis played their part through the Mecca Agreement. What happened after that happened, and today the Egyptians are completing their historical role with regards to Palestinian reconciliation. The Saudis rushed to say to Cairo that a success for the Egyptians was a success for the Saudis.
In fact, in his historical speech to the Egyptian president, King Abdullah said, "We congratulate your Excellency and our brothers in Egypt and we congratulate ourselves with you as supporters for the issues of Arab and Islamic nations." This demonstrates the clear integration between Saudi Arabia and Egypt and this pleases all rational-minded people.
What is important today is that the Palestinians, from various factions and Hamas especially, prove that they care about reconciliation and its success and adhere to it in spite of all the difficulties that they will face. They must also show that they will prioritise the Palestinian Cause and not one ideology over another or their own limited interests.
If any of the Palestinians thwart Egypt's efforts, they will not be pardoned; after the Mecca Agreement, Hamas realised how shocked many Arabs were at what the movement did regardless of what it said. Accordingly, whoever seeks to weaken dialogue today will bear the consequences tomorrow. Therefore, without any hesitation, Cairo must resort to naming any Arab party that seeks to thwart Palestinian reconciliation, not out of revenge but so that that party may bear the consequences vis-à-vis Arab public opinion. Saudi Arabia must also strive towards this so that those who seek destruction know that they will pay the price.

Tariq Alhomayed
Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, the youngest person to be appointed that position. Mr. Alhomayed has an acclaimed and distinguished career as a Journalist and has held many key positions in the field including; Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, Managing Editor of Asharq Al-Awsat in Saudi Arabia, Head of Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper's Bureau-Jeddah, Correspondent for Al - Madina Newspaper in Washington D.C. from 1998 to Aug 2000. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs including: the BBC, German TV, Al Arabiya, Al- Hurra, LBC and the acclaimed Imad Live's four-part series on terrorism and reformation in Saudi Arabia. He is also the first Journalist to conduct an interview with Osama Bin Ladin's Mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a BA degree in Media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, and has also completed his Introductory courses towards a Master's degree from George Washington University in Washington D.C. He is based in London.

Dennis Ross: The Most Important Dossier

Heads up to Dennis Ross, the arch-Zionist villain of Middle East op-ed fiction, from the general manager of Al-Arabiya television, in the Arab world's leading publication.
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

There are many political envoys in the administration of the new American President, Barack Obama. But assigning diplomat Dennis Ross the dossier of Iran and the Gulf means that his [mission] is the most serious and important of all. Despite the importance of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its historic value, it remains confined to a 35-year-old case, counting the years from the last war that changed the political situation. It can continue as it is, with its disputes and wars confined in the area of its conflicts. As for Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan, and with them Al-Qaeda organization, it is true that this is a problem capable of exploding but it is similarly confined to its area.
But Iran is the problem number one in the world. It presents a recipe of uranium, religious extremism, and limitless ambitions. It is the most energetic force in managing anarchy and financing wars. It is also accused of being behind the Lebanon turmoil and the emergence of Hamas, and of being the only threat to Iraq as well as to the Gulf nations. Add to this that it is about to give birth to its first nuclear weapon which will make it more dangerous.
The Americans have been suffering from the Iranian Complex since the Khomeini Revolution that has lasted for three restless decades. This has gone to the extent where the United States sees the Iranians in its nightmares and where the bulk of US policies have become geared to how to deal with them everywhere, in such places as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf, Yemen, and Palestine.
Now this file has been turned over to Ross, the man who can be described without hesitation as knowledgeable about all the details of the Iranian affair and the issues linked to it in the region. This will save a lot of time for the American Administration, but it does not mean automatically guaranteeing the sought solution with Iran. Envoy Ross has to perform a miracle that defied five American presidents who ruled for 30 years and devoted much of their time to extinguishing the Iranian fire.
So, will the special envoy be able to contain Iran, or to draft a plan for fighting it or reconciling with it, or making concessions to it? We do not know, but any decision Ross recommends might change the map of the region. It might end a dispute that has dragged on, and consequently open the door to solving the difficult problems of the region in which Iran is definitely involved. Everybody hopes that a good relationship with Tehran will mean peace in the Middle East, and [yet] Ross could be the cause for embroiling the region into more Iranian hegemony and consequently erosion of American power and threats to the Gulf nations, with new wars that will ensue as a result of this. Thus it is no exaggeration to say that Ross is carrying the most important dossier and that he is required to perform a political miracle.

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. Mr. Al Rashed is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

Iran: Orchestrated attack on reformists

There is no doubt that the Tehran troglodyte paleocons and extremist Ayatollah groupies are going to pull out all the stops to prevent the accession of a reformist presidency in Iran, even though the Iranian government is in large part a tool of the Ayatollahs. But of which Ayatollahs is it a tool?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad established a power center that is built on the IRGC and is somewhat independent of more "moderate" Ayatollahs like Rafsanjahni. At the same time, he recruited the backing of more extreme factions represented by Ayatollah Khameinei.
As he is the incumbent, Ahmadinejad is free to use the resources of the state to batter his reformist opponent, Khatami.
The Fight in Tehran Gets Bitterer by the Day
Friday 27 February 2009
By Amir Taheri
As Sharq al-Awsat

Although the Iranian presidential election campaign is not due to open until the end of May, two things are already certain. The campaign has started; and it is unusually dirty. One could expect piles of dirty laundry to be washed in public, affecting major figures of the regime. Even "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi, hitherto kept outside the mud hole, is being dragged in.
The first shot was fired last December when the official Islamic New Agency, controlled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, published a 5000-word article attacking Muhammad Khatami, the former president who has since declared his candidacy in next June's election.
The article, signed by Payam Fazli-Nejad, claimed that Khatami is at the centre of an international conspiracy to bring the Khomeinist revolution to an end and transform the Islamic Republic into a secular state.
According to Fazli-Nejad, the so-called «Bilderberg Group» hatched the "conspiracy" when Khatami attended one of their annual gatherings in a Portuguese resort. According to Fazli-Nejad, the group is part of the global Freemasonry and represents financial interests and political circles that use it as a "secret government of the world."
Although Fazli-Nejad's claim could be dismissed as pure nonsense, they claims found an echo in Iran partly because mullahs have a long history of association with Freemasonry. The Islamist reformer Jamaleddin Asssad-Abadi, known to Arabs as al-Afghani, founded the first Freemason lodge in Iran in the 19th century. Sayyed Hassan Imami, Tehran's Friday Prayer Leader between 1955 and 1979, presided over another Freemason lodge known as "The Brothers."
Obviously encouraged by the Office of the Supreme Guide Ali Khamenehi, the author of the article went on to publish a whole book about what he claims are "secret plans to topple the Islamic Republic through soft subversion."
The book, titled "Knights of the Cultural NATO", includes a number of photographs and photocopies of supposedly confidential documents revealing the alleged "conspiracies" in which the government of the United States is supposed to have played a major part.
It names most of the active figures of the internal opposition of being involved in the "conspiracy" and, in effect, working for US and other NATO intelligence services. The list of those accused amounts to a who-is-who of politicians, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists who try to oppose the system without breaking with it.
The message of the book is clear: the so-called "reformist" camp is an American Trojan horse, brought in to destroy the Khomeinist system.
Last week, the official news agency in Tehran reported that the book, published by the Kayhan Group, which is controlled by Khamenehi, has run into its 10th edition, becoming a major best seller.
Tehran sources claim that the book's best-seller status has been engineered by the government with the purchase of thousands of copies for free distribution among civil servants and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In an introduction to the book, Kayhan's Editor in Chief, Hussein Shariatmadari, claims that it contains "irrefutable evidence of contacts between the bridgeheads of this group with foreign intelligence services". He seems to ignore that his claim raises a crucial question: if there is "irrefutable evidence", why haven't the authorities have brought no charges against those named in the book?
The response of the accused came last week during a meeting at the home of Ayatollah Abdallah Nuri, a former Minister of the Interior and generally considered as the regime's most serious critic within the Khomeinist establishment. During the meeting, attended by more than 200 "reformist" figures across the board, speaker after speaker denounced the campaign of vilification orchestrated by Khamenehi's office. One speaker, Hashem Aghjari, a hero of the war against Iraq, went further by denouncing Khamenehi by name and calling for the abolition of the post of "Supreme Guide".
A few days later, an even graver charge against Khamenehi came a few days later in an attack by Muhammad Sazgara, a former aide to the "Supreme Guide" and one of the first generation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Accused of working for US intelligence, Sazgara claimed that Khamenehi himself has a history of contacts with the KGB, the former Soviet Union's intelligence agency, and its East German branch known as Stasi.
In an open letter addressed to Khamenehi and published in "reformist" websites, Sazgara claims that his allegations are based on top-secret Stasi documents, made available by the German government for research purposes. According to Sazgara, these documents are being studied by a "young Iranian researcher", and, once fully analysed, could show that Khamenehi acted as a Soviet agent of influence during a crucial phase in the power struggle in the early years of the revolution.
Sazgara's allegations may be as fanciful as those of Fazli-Nejad. After all, that Khamenehi was in contact with Soviet officials was no secret at the time. As Deputy Defence Minister at the time, Khamenehi was charged with the task of securing weapons from the USSR at a time that the United States, Iran's main arms supplier, had imposed an embargo.
The accusations from both sides are important not because they might reflect the truth. They certainly don't. Khatami is no CIA agent and Khamenehi was not working for the Soviets.
These accusations are important for two reasons.
First, they show that the power struggle may be heading into new and more dangerous directions in which the Marques of Queensbury's rules would no longer apply.
Secondly, they show that the two camps are unable to fight on the basis of concrete political and economic plans and are using Middle Eastern style personal attacks, and charges of "betrayal" and "working for foreign intelligence" as a substitute. This campaign would see a lot of mud flying. However, what Iran needs is a serious debate about its future at what may be the most dangerous time in its contemporary history.
Amir Taheri's new book " The Persian Night: Iran Under The Khomeinist Revolution" has just been published by Encounter Books, New York and London.

Iran Q&A - We are in sight of Iranian nuclear weapons

Are the Iranians seeking to attain nuclear weapons?

There is overwhelming evidence in support of a "yes" answer to this question. The Iranians have continued to defy the IAEA and enrich uranium, a vital part of the process of making nuclear weapons. They have claimed that they are enriching the uranium for civilian purposes, but highly respected non-proliferation expert David Albright of ISIS points to the fact that the Iranians have at their disposal enough raw-material, "yellowcake", for the making of nuclear weapons but not for the creation of a domestic electrical energy program. Clearly, their enrichment program is for nuclear weapons purposes. They also have a heavy water plant at Arak, and the large plant at Bushehr, the pilot plant of which is to be inaugurated in late February 2009.

While the supreme Iranian leader Khamenaei has said the use of weapons of mass destruction is forbidden by Islamic law, other leaders, including former President Rafsanjani, have threatened Israel with a nuclear exchange.

There are many geopolitical reasons for Iran to wish to attain nuclear weapons. Among these are its being surrounded by nuclear neighbors Pakistan, India and Israel. The Iranians also see the attaining of nuclear weapons as enhancing their prestige and as means of extending their power in the Middle East.

How close are the Iranians to attaining nuclear weapons?

Former American Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton says the Iranians have mastered all the technical difficulties involved in creating a nuclear weapon. It is generally acknowledged that the most difficult part of the process is the enriching of the uranium. The Iranians have increased the number of centrifuges in their Natanz plant to four thousand and Albright believes that they will have enough enriched material for at least one nuclear bomb in 2009. He also believes that the "weaponization" process can be carried out quite swiftly.

Once Iran has enough enriched uranium it can, in effect, be said to have nuclear weapons.

The Iranians have the missile capacity not only to reach every point in the Middle East, but also in southern Europe. That is to say that all US bases in the Middle East may soon be in range of Iranian nuclear weapons.

How can Iran possibly go to the final stage of the process, weaponization, when it is being observed and supervised by the UN?

Yaakov Lappin, in a February 22, 2009, article in the Jerusalem Post, cites a report of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency claiming Iran has produced 1,010 kg. of low-enriched uranium. The figure is a third more than Iran had previously disclosed. Moreover, Prof. Raymond Tanter, President of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, told the Post, "Because it takes more time to create LEU (low-enriched uranium) than to go from LEU to HEU (highly enriched uranium), the discovery of the additional LEU suggest that the Iranian regime has accelerated its quest for nuclear weapons capability."

Tanter also claims that Iran has a secret underground facility in its military complex at Lavizan 2, in northeastern Tehran, where the weaponization process can take place. The UN is not permitted to inspect military facilities like this one.

Is Iran likely to transfer its nuclear weapons to Hizbullah, Hamas or any of its other surrogates in the world?

There are those who point out that Iran has a WMD capacity with chemical and biological weapons, but has never transferred them to its surrogates. They argue it is extremely unlikely that Iran would give the surrogates the power to initiate an action, the reaction to which might bring great harm to Iran. Yet, it is impossible to be certain about this, as Iran has in the past used surrogates in terror attacks, in order to cover its own tracks.

Does Iran intend to use its nuclear weapons against Israel?

Many argue that Iran would not risk this, as they understand that Israel and the United States have the capacity to level Tehran, destroy the heart of their civilization. They contend that no matter how hate-filled the regime is in relation to Israel, it is not suicidal. So the general consensus is that Iran would not try a first strike against Israel. But there is, of course, no way of knowing for certain that this is the case.

Will the United States - when it understands it is being strung along, deceived by Iran - decide on nuclear preemption?

The Obama Administration will do everything it possibly can to avoid taking military action. It will show a great deal of good-will and understanding towards Iran. It will attempt to lure it into a dialogue. Iran will probably engage in such a dialogue, but not at the price of halting its nuclear program. It will continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons and will not accept the alternatives the US offers it. But it will delay and deceive, making promises it won't keep. And it will probably string the Obama Administration along for a long time. Yet, at some point it is likely the American patience will run out. In this, it would seem that Iran and the US are on an inevitable collision course.

The confrontation now seems certainly to happen after Iran has acquired a nuclear capability. In other words, an open clash might mean a nuclear war and massive destruction. The United States may then simply take the military option off the table. My guess is that for many of Barack Obama's closest foreign policy advisors, it has never been on the table.

It should be remembered that the Bush Administration promised repeatedly to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, yet Iran proceeded unimpeded towards this goal during the Bush years. That President Obama will be true to his promise of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed power is thus extremely doubtful.

If the United States does not preempt Iran, must Israel do so?

It is conceivable that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would do more harm than good. This would be the case if Iran does have the capacity to strike Israel with a nuclear weapon. That is, to be successful any Israeli strike has to not only destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities and its capacity to manufacture new weapons, it must also ensure that no Iranian weapon is used in retaliation. All this suggests that the decision for Israel is a complex one and cannot be made simply.

New York Times correspondent David Sanger reported on January 2009 that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert requested from President George Bush in 2008 permission to fly over Iraq and was refused. Bush also reportedly refused an Israeli request for an advanced kind of bunker-buster ordnance and new refueling technology. All this suggests that an Israeli operation is almost a mission impossible.

How should Israel respond to an Iranian attack?

It is to be hoped that we would be able to preempt it, or if not, to intercept the missiles. But if not, it is not true, as former Iranian President Rafsanjani claims, that in a nuclear exchange Iran would survive and Israel would not. Most likely, both societies would survive and be terribly crippled. Only an insane, messianically driven Iranian leadership would dictate such an outcome. But for deterrence purposes, the Israeli leadership must make it one-hundred-percent clear that any attack on Israel will be met with a devastatingly disproportional response.

Adar 1, 5769 / 25 February 2009